The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has claimed some politicians are using gangs to cause unrest, intimidate people and attack opponents.
Police said that last week’s violent political clashes between major political parties, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), were tied to gang violence.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that “police have learned some politicians have used gang members to create unrest.”
He said that while the MPS currently could not disclose the names of politicians linked to inciting gang violence, he assured that police “will take legal action against people suspected of being involved in recent violent demonstrations and attacks.”
Minivan News spoke to three gang members on 25 March, two of whom said although they were generally uninterested in politics, they had received financial support from politicians who would pay them for protection and to attack their opponents.
Better things to do
Shiyam added that because members of the special operation had been forced to concentrate on containing the political violence, there had been a corresponding spike in gang violence, burglary and street theft.
All of these had fallen when the special operations team began their work earlier this month, he said.
Shiyam said the special operation had returned to its work again in full force.
Last week, Deputy Commissioner of the MPS Mohamed Rishwan also said the recent political violence was hampering work and diverting resources from the special operation to curb gang-related crimes.
“As a consequence a large number of officers had to stop their work and interrupt their service to the people to go out to control and watch over political activities,” Rishwan said.
Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said police acknowledgement of politically-motivated gang violence was “a very serious statement [by police].
He noted that members of the MDP have previously accused senior DRP-PA politicians of being connected to gangs, “but police saying it makes the matter more urgent and credible.”
During his opening speech to the Maldives Donor Conference 2010, President Mohamed Nasheed referred to the matter, stating: “I don’t care whether you are a gangster, or whether you are a senior politician controlling the gangsters – if you attack, or orchestrate attacks, this government will take appropriate legal action.”
Zuhair said he hoped police would forward the relevant cases to the Prosecutor General so that they could be resolved in the courts.
Spokesperson for the MDP, Ahmed Haleem said “violence was normal under the previous regime, and DRP are doing the same thing now.”
Haleem said the DRP was trying to harm the country by trying to “stop aid and funds” from international donors.
He said the MDP was “a bit concerned” about politicians being tied to gang violence, “because some DRP MPs are physically involved in violence.”
DRP Vice President and Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef said the party performed “peaceful protests, not the inciting of violence”, and said police would be making statements “based on their opperational experience.”
“Many DRP meetings have been disrupted by MDP activists, who attack with stones and swords,” Shareef said, adding that shops and houses of DRP members had also been vandalised in the violence over the weekend.
“We are constantly receiving threatening calls from the MDP,” Shareef said, adding that “the ruling party should be more responsible and should not use the gangs.”
“There is a lot of gang violence connected to MDP, and I am worried that it is difficult to control our own activists because they have no protection.”
“If people see the ruling party is inciting violence,” Shareef warned, “the country will lose its peace.”